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Thursday, June 30, 2011


6/30/11 Update
June has been a busy month - for me, at least. I've had two huge graphics deadlines so there's not been a whole lot of time to work on the house. Things have started to slow down for me so we were able to do some stuff yesterday.

We first surveyed the site and dug the foundation trench over a year and a half ago. Since that was done we've had three major flood events - all last summer within about a 4 week period. There was so much water that the foundation trench flooded, which ran into the septic tank hole and floated the septic tank! (We finally got that re-positioned this spring!) It took me about a month to dig out all the silt that had filled the trench. In some spots as much as 12 inches!!!

We decided that with all that water we had better double check the batter boards to make sure that everything was still square. That's what we did yesterday. It was a good thing, too, because one end was WAY off! Not sure if the batter boards were moved or if they were not positioned correctly to begin with. The rest of the house was right on and with a little futzing, we managed to fix the ones that were off. We measured and measured and measured and are pretty confident things are now square.

When things were first laid out we did not know that code requires 2" foam insulation on the outside of the foundation so the next task is to make sure the trench is the right width to accommodate the foam. It's going to mean we have to widen the trench in some places - not as much as I'd feared, however. I was all ready to start on that today but the smoke from the Las Conchas fire is too thick (and unhealthy) so this task will have to wait until another day or until the wind comes up and blows the smoke elsewhere. In the mean time, Rick is figuring out how much rubble, foam insulation and rebar we will need.

Here's Rick setting up the transit in the NW corner of the house. You can see how smoky it's been. There's actually another mesa in the background that you can't see!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Permitting
When we started the process of designing our house we had a number of conversations - between ourselves and with others - about permitting. I must admit that if we were in a more secluded spot, one where we were not visible from the highway, I would have voted for building without a permit. It just seemed too complicated, confusing and since the house is going to be for us to live in, unnecessary. With the advantage of hind site, I can now say that I'm glad we went through the process. It took a LOT longer than I thought or hoped for but I'm happy we did it.

Why? Well, because we're building with strawbales and doing a rubble/trench foundation we had to have an engineers or architect's stamp. It took us a couple of tries but we finally found someone who was willing to work with us. He was meticulous and found a number of things he wanted us to think about and fix. I feel much more comfortable with the final plans now. It also made getting our building permit pain-free. I had heard many tails about how Planning & Zoning and CID would make folks jump through hoops - go get that, go over there and do this - frankly I was dreading the process. It took CID FOUR hours to approve our plans as opposed to the 5 to 7 days they told us it would take! About 15 minutes after we got home from dropping the plans off at CID, they called us to say we could pick them up!!!

Over the last few years we've heard a lot of horror stories about the inspection process, too. Having never done this before we had no idea what to expect. We requested our first inspection over the weekend - the foundation ditch inspection. The inspector came yesterday and we spent most of the time he was here talking about Youngsville! He's really nice and seems very understanding of the owner/builder and I think the process will be a pretty stress-free one. I expected him to have his tape measure out to make sure the ditch was deep enough but he just sort of glanced over at it and said it was fine.

So I'm starting to get excited! It has been my dream for years to build our house - with our own hands. I know that some of you think I'm nuts but the thought of living in a home where we have put our hands on every square inch of it - one where friends have helped, too - is very appealing to me. What wonderful energy I expect it to have. The next step is to get the perforated pipe (for the bottom of the trench), order gravel and get insulation. Once we have those things we can start on the foundation. Hopefully next week.

Stay Tuned!

This is a picture of the view we will have from our kitchen window. It's looking almost due north.
Here's what will be the view from our front door - looking east.




Sunday, June 12, 2011


After 13 years of dreaming and planning we got our building permit on June 1, 2011 and today, June 12, 2011 we have requested our first inspection - earth compaction.

We had our foundation ditch dug in November 2008 - I can't believe it was that long ago!

That's our friend Ramey and Rick making the first cut.

Last summer the torrential monsoon rains dumped 6 to 8 inches of silt in the ditch which I spent the last couple of weeks digging out.
It's now ready for inspection!

Here's a picture of the house site with our permit "prominently displayed".
Next week we will order perforated pipe and gravel so we can start building our rubble/trench foundation.

Here's another picture with our puppy Tex, the 'zard chaser.
Stay tuned for the next chapter in this saga.